Musings and Snippets from a recently retired JP. I served for 31 years, mostly in west London. I was Chairman of my Bench for some years, and a member of the National Bench Chairmen's Forum All cases are based on real ones, but anonymised and composited. All opinions are those of one or more individuals. JPs swear to enforce the law of the land, whether or not they approve of it. Nothing on here constitutes legal advice.
Sunday, March 02, 2014
Quality Public Service
I was recently inspired to respond to my county's fire service website and to request a free fire safety survey on my home. Today a full-sized fire engine turned up (by appointment) and the very helpful crew gave us advice and installed new smoke detectors with 10-year batteries. As the leader completed the forms, we asked if we could get our 83 year-old neighbour added to the waiting list. "We'll do it now, while we're here" was the response, so my wife and the firemen (they were men) went next door. While they were in there I rang the doorbell of the house over the road, to alert six year-old Bradley to the big red machine that was blocking the bridleway on which we live. The driver invited Bradley and his young sister up to sit in the cab, and explained what some of the equipment was for, Bradley was fascinated in his six year-old way. As the crew left, I thought what a splendid example of public service this was. The crew were on call, with their radios switched on, so the machine was still available for its main task. Well done.
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Well done to the fire service, things like this matter a lot to sensible members of the public.ReplyDelete
Unfortunately the governmnet will not see this as an example of a quality public service, just waste.
They will see it as lots of firemen turning up to do a simple survey in an expensive machine. They will see lots of people who are employed to respond to emergencies, with no emergency calls being made. They will see it in terms of cost of wages and pensions and conclude they this work could be be done by a private company; making a profit by paying the minimum wage to a poorly trained individual.
This government, and their Think Tank advisors, only see the cost, while overlooking the value.
This is pretty much a textbook strawman. Well done.Delete
Not really a straw man argument. It's just saying what some further down have suggested. I.e. is this a best use of resources and could it been done cheaper and if some of the readers are saying this, then it's certain that the government are thinking it.Delete
I think we can all say this is a brilliant public service where those involved have gone the extra mile.
True public servants (especially in the Emergency Services) tend to go the extra mile if they can, while those employed by private companies doing public service work tend to stick strictly to their contract.
I can see the fire service being 'reformed' within the next 5 years and the obsession with outsourcing should be a concern to all decent citizens.
No, this is silly. The reason you get an engine and a full crew turning up is because they are on call. If you spilt the crew up then they are not able to respond to the full range of calls for that particular appliance. The cost is minimally greater than them being sat in the station playing cards, pool or whatever. If you got one fire-man in a van turning up that is actually an additional fire-man you need (and a van.)Delete
Yes, the putative additional man and van could be done more cheaply by an outsourcer, but it would still be more expensive that the crew alone.
And then the ad-hom against all government contractors - sigh ... There are appalling public servants, appalling contractors and appalling contracts.
We have had several break-ins and two episodes of arson. On each occasion the police attended briefly, gave us a crime number and left. Once we were home after the repairs to the house after the fire, fire service personnel visited, fitted new alarms, a fireproof box on the letter box and gave us advice. They comfort-call us annually and have told us that after two episodes of arson, if there is a further call from us it will take priority over any others.ReplyDelete
Top class service.
Shame about the police.
I think there was a survey recently about allocation to 999 calls. From memory, the majority go to the police, with only around 6-9% going to the Fire Service. The consequence of this is that limited police resources are in constant demand, while Fire Service resources are not. Therefore by the very nature of their work, they are able to provide a more proactive service with reliable back-up.Delete
Also, the fire service can offer something tangible, like fitting quality smoke alarms which are not that expensive for them to supply and do not need powering from the mains.
On the other hand the police haven't got anything tangible to offer. They look for evidence and if there isn't any, there is not much else they can do apart from issue a crime number. I know everyone watches CSI New York etc and think they know where forensics are, but the reality is that most officers can assess forensic opportunities at a glance and if there is little chance of getting forensics they won't request a CSI to attend. They also can't supply Burglar Alarms because they are expensive and what is needed varies depending on the circumstances. Good systems also need electrical power, which requires a qualified person to install.
Comparing police and fire service is like comparing apples and oranges.
Well put. It's helpful when someone gives an alternative view.Delete
Ex-everything (but not fire service)Delete
I loved to see this post, and believe what the fire service achieved was brilliant: fire prevention and raising public confidence in a uniformed service.
In subsequent posts the Police vs ‘Fireys’ sentiment rumbled out. It is not a useful sentiment; and I agree with the person who posted that it is like comparing apples and oranges.
The fire service are in the job of protecting and saving people and property. Arguably, the Police do the same. However the way in which both organisations do so sets them hugely apart. The fire service rescues people from cars, burning buildings, and puts out fires. The Police have no equipment or training to rescue people trapped in cars or extinguish fires.
They may; however, play roles in all of those. The police are likely to have been first at scene at a road traffic collision. They will have done their best initially, such as applying first aid, and then directed resources. When the fires are out they may, if there was criminality of negligence, conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire.
In this lies the nub. The fire service do not have the same punitive role to play as the police do. They do not arrest, using force if necessary, they do not seize children they do not turn the wheels on the conveyor belt between a crime and court. The public remember the fire service intervention as being positive, and this is also reflected in most TV programs on them. No matter how positive an outcome with the police was they are still the people who give you a speeding ticket a month later.
I would also add to what Anonymous3 March 2014 22:04 wrote. I think that the conditions the fire service operate under lead to a better service for the public. They may work shifts, but it has been my impression that they are better fed, watered and looked after (even sleeping on some shifts) than the police. This is not a swing at the fire service, or jealousy. It is just my observation that a fire crew deploys with an urn of tea, and a box of sandwiches to most jobs. And that back in the station is a warming oven to make sure they are fed hot food. They seem to have line managers that understand duty of care and the basics of leadership. In comparison to the police constable who may be too busy to stop for food or a toilet break in a 12 hour shift. Or who is stuck guarding a crime scene with no relief, toilet break or food for the entire shift. I am sure that the different work patterns result in different treatment of the public.
Again this point is not made to sling mud. It is merely to say that comparing the two services is not useful. If the police are praised for going in the very direction people are running from, the fire service have my admiration too: I for one would not wish for their job, which I think they do superbly.
Public service employees in " doing what they are paid to do" shocker..ReplyDelete
Ever heard of 'discretionary effort'..?Delete
Nowt wrong with acknowledging good service. We're all quick enough to whine when we don't get good service so we should be prepared to acknowledge it when we do. Maybe public servants might be more 'user friendly' and more inclined to do "What they are paid to do" if we give credit were it's due. Maybe.Delete
One of my family has had to see a lot of A & E over the years. She has had excellent care, which is what they are paid to do, but on top of that the staff have all been exceptionally kind and just plain nice. I am grateful for that.ReplyDelete
At the risk of being shouted down, if that's the right term for a written blog, is sending six firemen and a fire engine the best use of resources?ReplyDelete
I'm all for what they were going to do but I suspect one, or at most two, alarms were fitted and that would have been done by one person. It would have been nice to think that they could have each gone off in a car and fitted six at the same time at different properties, although on second thoughts there is probably some health and safety nonsense which says if one is going up a ladder there must be at least one other present to hold it.
I think the clue was in the phrase "they were on call" - you can hardly be on call if you have to go back to the station to pick up the rest of the crew.Delete
Since the unit that turned up was ready to instantly respond to an emergency call, 6 going off in 6 cars wouldn't have been a substitute. The crew would otherwise just have been sat around the fire station.Delete
wouldn't have had to go back anywhere, as they were in a fully equipped machine, dressed in uniform and ready to go.Delete
I am one hundred percent with you. I just had a new electrical installation inspected by one (1) guy. Sharp eyed, noted three deficiencies, sent me a confirming email from his laptop at the conclusion of the inspection, which took 15 minutes. And he did not swan around playing silly bugger and impressing children.Delete
Civil servants should be civil servants, not civil showmen.
Nah, I must disagree with IOpener and agree completely with BS(!)Delete
The water-fairies would have been sitting around drinking tea and watching porn in the station were they not doing this.
You really cannot argue "have they got nothing better to do", because the other thing they could be doing is - waiting around for a shout.
They can wait around for a shout whilst doing this kind of stuff, so good on them
Compare and contrast with these police officers conducting a random breath test without reasonable cause as required under s.6 of the RTA : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WC0oCnmysZ0ReplyDelete
In this incident, the police officers made so many procedural failings that had the breath test been positive then the driver concerned might well have had a defence that the officers had acted unlawfully in conducting this test, as they apparently failed to take heed of s.6 of the RTA and additionally seem to have ignored the fact that they had initiated the stop under s.41 of the RTA, until the driver reminded them after the breath test that this was the reason they had given for the stop and that the incident had been recorded on a dashboard camera.
I should add that I am a supporter of the restrictions in s.6 being removed, and the police being given the power to conduct random breath tests, but, until such a change in the law, the least we should expect is that they follow the laws that they have sworn to uphold.
In contrast, like Bystander, I have found the Fire Service to go out of their way to inform and help the general public about fire safety. They have always seemed willing to "go the extra mile" when it comes to fire prevention. If only our police service would adopt the same attitude then I think we would have lower crime rates and higher conviction rates.
Maybe if people stopped calling the police all the time for every trivial matter they might have some time to be more proactive. See the post by Anonymous 3 March 2014 22:04 for an excellent explanation. I would also point out that the fire service have it easier on the prevention/advice front. Many people in our society invite and allow criminality into their homes and lives. It's a lifestyle for some people unfortunately. No one invites fire in however.Delete
What on earth has this to do with the post?Delete
Comparing the fire service and the police in this way is ridiculous, they have entirely different jobs dealing with the public in entirely different circumstances.Delete
We too had some very good service from the fire brigade, when our village was flooded. I could not praise them enough for their help.ReplyDelete
I have been to Germany on holiday three times, and noticed they seem to have Feurwehr stations in almost every village, (at least where I was in the Rheintal and the Hunsrucke hills). It was very plain they revere their firemen and firewomen just like we do. I did think it odd, though that two villages 1km apart had their own separate fire stations. Every station seems to have its own FeurwehrFest every summer !ReplyDelete
Can confirm that many/most of these village fire stations, and in fact, quite a few in built up areas are staffed by the Freiwilligefeuerwher (voluntary fire service). Whilst they have the correct equipment (although often hand-me-downs from the professional service), they are not full time employees (think Lifeboats). They are normally used in cases where the professionals would be overkill, e.g. rubish bin fires, or where the professionals need support - like hosing down the motorway after a spill.Delete
Well done indeed.This is how the civil service should run. Helpful, useful, no red tape , no unnecessary expense.ReplyDelete
I live in Luxembourg so can not speak of our near neighbours Germany. However a large proportion of firemen in Luxembourg are "volunteers" who I imagine receive some "compensation" so there appears no shortage of firemen to man the stations and equipment that is provided by the commune and the State.ReplyDelete
In addition no fete would be complete without the
Well, the firemen are good at public relations and have the time for it. Anyone living in villages in England (or Germany or Luxembourg) have seen the fire services' explosive chip-pan fire demonstration, or their car-crash rescue, at village fetes. Impressive. Those that live in the country know that if they see dark, huge prowlers at night, they phone the fire-service complaining of a chimney fire. Then four local fire-engines, each with six huge firemen (retained at £30 per call out) will come with flashing blue lights and clomp around the premises. Exit malefactors.ReplyDelete
The police will turn up, - they always turn up; a single constable in a panda car driving down dark, silent lanes into who knows what maelstrom. Which is the braver ?
Most people have seen the military parading in the villages and towns, with considerably less panache or showmanship than firemen, but with an equal amount of goodwill. Pity the military do not use brass bands or tanks anymore. They should parade more often. Reminders on price and value are never wasted.
The police are very badly led. Very badly. The cardboard cutout, show-case, sound-bite Commissioners are junk. The police are very badly led (except Essex). If you need to employ truly brutal, amoral, corrupt, violent policemen to deal with horrifically more evil villains who would destroy the weak without thinking twice, you have to pay the price. East Midlands Detectives, Levenson and Steven Lawrence are the rotten apples but they are entirely predictable and solvable. Poor leadership is not. And police leadership is so abysmal one wonders if the corruption can be sorted.
And yet, and yet. The police could and used to, with their much appreciated horses, build links with the public. Like most lions led by donkeys, at ground level, I have seen more moral authority from single, unsupported police constables using their nous than I have ever seen in a team-bonded adrenalin-addicts in fire services, military or RNLI types. Credit to those who walk into the dark. Shame about police leadership.
Yes, OP, the firemen used their time usefully, taught and entertained the public and did good. No cost, high value. What you do not know is that many in the fire-service are ex-military. For some reason, the Marines cook an egg-butty in a formal way. You think the Guards are formal ? You have never seen an off-duty fireman, ex-Marine, cook an egg-butty on a pitching, rolling yacht halfway across the North Sea. The cutlery ranked on parade, the bread all squared up, the whole impeccably aligned on a damped tea-cloth to prevent slipping, and the egg, ahhh... always molee. Superb, makes TV chefs look silly. Low cost, high value. And they are good at fire-alarms.